PARIS: France is shutting down the environmental activist group Les Soulevements de la Terre (SLT) for provoking armed protests or violent actions, the government said today, a move immediately criticised by the leftist opposition and NGOs.
Interior minister Gerald Darmanin has referred several times to “eco-terrorism” in relation to SLT’s actions in recent months, saying some activists had showed “extreme violence against police forces”.
“Under the pretence of defending the conservation of the environment … this group encourages sabotage and material damage,” said a government decree announcing the shutdown of the group.
The decree referred to several protests that resulted in clashes with police, including those against a farm reservoir in western France in March and a rail link in the Alps last week.
“It’s an infringement on freedom of expression, it targets speech and not actions,” SLT lawyer Rapheal Kempf said of the decree, adding that they would contest it in court.
Rights groups said the move reflected a government crackdown on green interest groups, which they said included heavy-handed policing of protests and arrests of activists.
“It’s part of a wider trend,” said Patrick Baudouin, head of the French Human Rights League (LDH).
“For the past few months there have been attacks on several freedoms (freedom of protest, expression and association), that primarily concern the ecologist movement,” said Baudouin.
Activist Florian Lemerle told Reuters that, no matter the government’s decision, the SLT was too broad a group to be dissolved.
“Les Soulevements are a coalition, there are 190 local committees,” Lemerle said.